FERGUSON, MO — Following the homicide of a teen in a controversial police shooting, the town of Ferguson has seen a mixture of emotional prayer vigils, peaceful protests, wanton property damage, violent riots, and suppressive police tactics. The disorder has elicited disturbing imagery that has been likened to a “war zone.”
Saturday, August 9
The controversy arose over the death of 18-year-old Ferguson resident, Michael Brown. When a Ferguson police officer confronted Mr. Brown and a friend about jaywalking, a bizarre sequence of events occurred in which a physical altercation led to the officer shooting the teen multiple times. Several witnesses contradict the version of events touted by police. Details about the shooting were covered in a previous article.
The confrontation and homicide occurred in broad daylight at roughly 2:15 p.m. on August 9th, 2014. After Michael Brown was shot, he lied in the street for reportedly 4 hours during the police response. The bloody sight drew an emotional crowd, including the victims’ parents and friends.
The evening was filled with candlelit vigils and peaceful protests at the Ferguson Police Department. The crowd stayed out late Saturday evening and returned the next morning. There was no violence.
Sunday, August 10
After a restless evening, hundreds of community members returned to the streets to demand answers in the shooting. Peaceful protests were held at the Ferguson Police Department.
St. Louis Police Chief Jon Belmar held a press conference to deliver the official version of events, alleging that after stopping Michael Brown and another man for jaywalking, the officer was “pushed into his car” and almost had his gun taken from him. The fact that police delivered a story contradicting multiple witnesses caused the people’s grief to turn to anger.
The decedent’s father, Michael Brown, Sr., held a sign that read, “Ferguson Police just executed my unarmed son!!!”
The day was filled with emotional protests. Residents uttering various chants and raised their hands in air toward police, saying, “Hands up, don’t shoot!”
Police responded by surrounding the mourners and protesters with rifle-toting cops, snarling attack dogs, and armored SWAT vehicles.
Tensions flared. Obscenities were spewed. The barking of police hounds and demonstration of government force did not serve to calm the crowd’s emotions. Protesters who believed the police were getting away with murder were not amused.
That evening, a candlelight vigil was held. The peace was broken after darkness set in, and a group of criminal opportunists used the volatile situation to riot and create havoc. A period of lawlessness ensued after 11:00 p.m., in which windows were smashed, properties were severely damaged, merchants were looted, and police could do little to stop it. Shots were reportedly fired. At least one building was completely burned to the ground.
Police donned riot gear and saturated the streets with teargas and rubber bullets. The broadcast of police scanners was silenced.
Monday, August 11
By morning, 32 arrests were reported, and around 20 businesses had been vandalized and robbed. Michael Brown’s family rejected the riots, saying that they desperately needed support, not violence.
Riot police dominated the streets, as the fires of the previous evening smoldered.
Undeterred emotional crowds returned to the streets to protest, as news of the homicide had spread. Suggesting the killing was racially motivated, protesters held signs that read, “I am a man,” a throwback to the civil rights movement and calls for equality.
Police were particularly restrictive on Monday. There were reports of police stopping and harassing people in public with no probable cause.
Images of gun-wielding riot police stopping pedestrians was particularly disturbing.
As the day went on, police ordered the streets to be cleared. Peaceful protests were effectively banned after gatherings were called “unlawful assemblies.”
Officers liberally dispersed teargas and fired rubber bullets at anyone who appeared in public. Flights were restricted over Ferguson’s airspace. Even reporters were threatened with violence and arrest.
“You guys are in the middle of a war zone,” cops hissed at journalists from the Riverfront Times, who were trying to document the events.
Travel was restricted and people were required to present identification at police checkpoints on public streets, the Riverfront Times reported:
After clearing the street, police set up another blockage near the intersection of Nesbit Drive. Only residents with an ID showing an address in southern Ferguson were allowed to pass, but not all drivers have their current address listed on their license. Daily RFT watched as police turned away a woman who said she lived on the other side of the checkpoint because her licence didn’t show the right address. Officers manning the checkpoint refused to let anyone (including the media) pass.
By evening, criminals again seized the opportunity to loot and create chaos, destroying their own neighborhoods to spite the police. More windows were smashed and buildings were robbed. Another 15 arrests were reported.